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NBA Draft History: Looking Back On Iowa and Their Most Notable NBA Players

Big Ten fans probably remember Ricky Davis, but let’s look at all the notable Hawkeye draft picks.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Second Round-Iowa vs Villanova Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

The Iowa Hawkeyes have a long history in the NBA Draft. However, the team does not have players regularly drafted year in and year out. Since Iowa players have generally gone in the second round and many of the players drafted have struggled to stay in the NBA.

Who are some of the highlights? Let’s take a look.

First-Round Draft Picks

The highest Iowa player to ever go in the NBA Draft was Fred Brown. He was selected in the first round at pick No. 6 in the 1971 NBA Draft. He was selected by the Seattle SuperSonics and played there until he retired in 1984. He won an NBA Championship with the SuperSonics in 1979, earned an All-Star selection in 1976, and was a team captain.

John Johnson is the second-highest Iowa player to go in the NBA Draft. He was drafted No. 7 by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 1970, ahead of three future Hall-of-Famers. Johnson’s NBA career lasted 12 years, complete with two All-Star appearances and an NBA Title alongside former teammate Fred Brown with the 1979 SuperSonics. During his time in the NBA, he played with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Portland Trail Blazers, Houston Rockets, and Seattle SuperSonics. He retired at the end of the 1982 season.

Ronnie Lester was selected in the 1980 Draft as the 10th pick. He was selected by the Portland Trail Blazers but was traded to the Chicago Bulls on the same night. His career lasted six years; playing four seasons with the Bulls and two with the Lakers. In his time in Los Angeles, Lester won an NBA Title with the 1985 “Showtime Lakers”.

In recent years, the Iowa Hawkeyes had two very notable players drafted in the first round—B.J Armstrong and Ricky Davis.

Armstrong was taken No. 18 in the 1989 NBA Draft and earned notoriety as a member of the early-90’s Chicago Bulls teams. Playing alongside Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, Armstrong played significant minutes on Chicago’s 1991-1993 NBA Championship run and even made an All-Star team in 1994. Davis, on the other hand, was taken No. 21 in the 1999 NBA Draft but never made an All-Star team or won a ring. However, he did average 20.6 points per game on the pre-LeBron, black-and-blue Cleveland Cavaliers and was famous for shooting at his own basket to finalize a triple-double.

Second-Round Draft Picks

Most recently, Aaron White was selected as the 49th pick in the 2015 NBA Draft by the Washington Wizards. White, a 6-foot-9 power forward, played four seasons at Iowa and earned first-team All-Big Ten honors in his senior year. Although he went on to play in the NBA Summer League, he would never sign a contract with the Wizards. Instead, he has spent the past two years playing basketball in Europe.

In addition, Roy Devyn Marble was taken in the 2014 NBA Draft. He had a monster career as a Hawkeye, earning him a No. 56 selection in the second round by the Denver Nuggets. After being selected by the Denver, he was traded to the Orlando Magic on the night of the draft. Over two seasons, Marble appeared in 44 NBA games, including seven starts in his rookie year. He scored 97 total points, but shot just 30.4 percent and was waived in the summer of 2016 after being traded to the Los Angeles Clippers.

The University of Iowa had no draft picks between 2008-2013.

Undrafted Free Agency

Iowa has had recent success in undrafted free agency. In 2016, Jarrod Uthoff went undrafted and played for the Sacramento Kings in the Summer League. He bounced around the D-League for much of 2016-17 but played two successful 10-day contracts with the Dallas Mavericks late in the season. On March 29th, the Mavericks signed Uthoff to a multi-year contract and gave him extended minutes down the stretch. In his final three games of the year, he played 21.9 minutes per game and shot 62.5 percent from the field.

Another notable undrafted Iowa alumnus is Reggie Evans, the hard-nosed big man with a Hawkeye arm-tattoo. Evans played 809 career NBA games and made the postseason with five different teams. Plus, as one of the league’s hardest workers, he twice led the NBA in rebounding percentage (2004-05 and 2012-13).

Don Nelson—or Nellie—is probably the most famous Iowa player to be drafted but was taken in the now-defunct third round.

Iowa has had decent success in the past few years and may be on the upswing. Going forward, the question remains; is Peter Jok the next NBA star from Iowa?

Only time will tell.